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“Many Bothans died” – no wait, this is Death Star I …

How to discuss this without giving anything away?

The family and I saw Rogue One tonight at 7 pm. It’s a small victory of mine that I’ve managed to get my wife to accept that this is something that I really can’t let pass without seeing the first available time of premier night. So that’s a good start right there.

This evening went without the fanfare that would have come had we gone to a larger theater or seen it on IMAX in 3D while drinking a film-based beverage and wearing our galaxy premier sweatshirts. (That was The Force Awakens at Cinetopia last year) Instead, we were in the small theater right down the road from our house and only one person was wearing anything approaching cosplay. I admit that I wish we had done the big theater thing again, but I was a day late getting tickets and we had to go where we could to get a 7 pm showtime.

78c208f13001c91231299bd2eb476c19What was important? … The fact that I still got goosebumps when the lights went down. And for a moment, I was in the aisle seat in the back of one of the Chestnut Hill twin theaters with my grandmother in 1977.

Did it last? Not entirely. There wasn’t a screen crawl (something that had gotten to be painfully de rigueur for Star Wars films), the music was noticably different, and I was thrown a bit off by the quick changes from one planet to another as the various pieces were laid out chaotically like a myopic view of a skein of multicolored yarn. I was tempted to despair.

Luckily, this was short-lived. As the film progressed, some ancillary characters and cities were culled revealing how the many parts came together into a meaningful story arc. And despite the pace picking up, some character development brought you into the protagonist’s lives enough to care about them.

The droid we learn to love this time is K-2SO, a reprogrammed imperial unit with a drollness that reminded me (but only slightly) of the original C3PO  – as opposed to the buffoon he / its become. K2 was the show stealer whose personality was possibly the most fleshed out of all the characters onscreen.

tarkinThere were also familiar faces. Odd familiar faces. Grand Moff Tarkin, for instance, who looked as if Peter Cushing might have spent time with Joan Rivers’ plastic surgeon who did one hell of a job making him not only young again, but much less dead. On the one hand, the CGI that made this possible was pretty amazing. On the other, we were still caught in the upward slope of the uncanny valley.

The same can be said for Leia, who we (thankfully) only see for a very short time, but in such a well lit close up that they are daring you to look – and you do.

Red and Gold Leaders are also brought back for a space fight over an imperial base. But rather than recreate them on top of other actors, they were simply cut into their  scenes – rather effectively, I have to admit.

Lastly, Cornelius Evazan and Ponda Baba (who both have way too much backstory on Wookipedia), the toughs from the cantina on Tatooine, get a quick cameo appearance in a  street shot. These guys just can’t stand not being in a fight, but manage to rein themselves in a little quicker this time.

Overall, I think I may like this even more than I liked The Force Awakens, which was the film that gave us all a new hope after Lucas was bought out. The Force Awakens was a lot of fun and took the theater’s breath away when the Millenium Falcon revealed herself. Rogue One, on the other hand, took a small piece from the original Star Wars and delivered a beautifully tragic exegesis. Clear, well-defined, and raw.

I’m looking forward to another viewing soon. Thumbs up.

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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New Blog to watch – 100 Films in 100 Days

100 films is a brand-spankin’ new blog I’m following. Tonight is night one, so join me and get in on the ground floor as this poor sap tortures himself through 100 consecutive nights of movies.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Dark Night of the Scarecrow : after 30 years of nightmares

Have you ever been haunted by an old movie existing in the shadows of your mind? Something youImage shouldn’t have seen? Perhaps hiding behind the couch when your parents thought you were in bed sleeping? 

I can think of several films I saw that way when I was young. Films that gained special power because my memory was incomplete and my mind filled in the gaps with things a lot scarier than the film itself. 

I was too afraid to keep watching that night and left scared out of my wits early on to stew in my own imaginings.

It must have been thirty years ago, and I never even knew what the movie was until just recently, when Netflix found it for me: Dark Night of the Scarecrow, Directed by Frank De Felitta in 1981, starring more familiar faces than you’d believe.

The film opens introducing us to Bubba, a man from the mold of Lenny from ‘Of Mice and Men’, a big man with a small mind. Not five minutes in, Bubba is (wrongly) accused of doing harm to a young girl who he plays with regularly.

The good old boys in town form up a quick posse to bring street justice to the man that they have already decided was a menace to their town. Soon, they corner the simpleminded man as he hides in plain sight as a scarecrow near his house.

 From then on, everything goes so predictably, Bubba could have written it:

 The men learn of Bubba’s innocence with their guns hot in their hands, there’s a trial but the men get off (they appear to have benefitted from a ‘stand your ground’ law that strongly favors the survivors of an interaction. But as the trial ends, they are cursed by Bubba’s old crone of a mother. One by one, over the next several days, the men see the scarecrow in their fields, panic and get themselves killed in ways that are arguably accidental.

There are some moments of tension once in a while, but this is not the kind of movie that will make you jump. Ever. I would not say that it’s a very good film, but it’s not terrible either. And Bubba will haunt your children’s dreams for years if you let they get a glimpse.

A la the ‘They’re Coming to get you Barbara’ movie review site (may it rest in peace), I’d give it two severed thumbs up.Image

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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It’s that time again: Jeopardy and Cookies

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The Microbiology Game Board

Tomorrow (Thursday) is review day for the final exams in both my General Biology and Microbiology classes.

Maybe later I’ll post a few hints to help your team win.

Maybe.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Titans

imagesI have an inexplicable love for mythology, even bad… very bad retellings of it.

I feel like I needed to open with some sort of explanation for even watching both Clash of the Titans (2010) and Wrath of the Titans (2012). Because these are not good movies. I admit to having loved the original Clash of the Titans (1981). I was young –  It had some of the last stop motion animation by Ray Harryhausen, the man who did all the effects from Jason and the Argonauts (1963), 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), etc. – and, there were some great moments in that film. Admittedly, these great moments are nestled between a lot of terrible acting.

So, there it is, that’s my excuse for even considering watching these films. What did I think? Well, #1 both Clash of the Titans films bastardize a lot of mythology, but frankly, that doesn’t bother me. After all, they’re just stories. People have been reshaping them for hundreds of years in order to make them their own. #2, despite all the money, the 2010 film undermines our concern for the characters by giving us only spectacle. If I did care about a character, it was Hades. A slow moving medusa in the ’81 version draws you in infinitely more than than the lightening swift one in the remake. I don’t have a lot of film-making cred, but I do know that pacing generates tension, and sometimes it’s what you don’t see that is scariest. #3 Thanks for the cameo of Bubo. He was a great device in the first film, but would never have worked twice. All in all, 2010 the remake was watchable if you already knew it wasn’t going to be that good and you just want to spend an evening with your brain off.

Wrath of the titans makes me with that the the world did end in 2012 so I would have died without watching this crap. What the hell was it supposed to be? A buddy movie? Zeus and Hades test their filial bonds over a power struggle and learn that they always did love each other deep in their hearts? Ares and Perseus learn that being half brothers isn’t quite good enough to not want to bash each other’s heads in? And am I supposed to know this bastard whelp of Poseidon? This film fails on so many levels. #1 Everything that was wrong with the 2010 film was more wrong here. #2 this film actually tries to make us care about the characters that they spend about 17 seconds developing. If you budget for special effects and just assume the script will write itself as you film, then don’t even try to have dialog. Just have 90 minutes of action and let us go on our way.

Awesome. Clash of the Titans 3: Revenge of the Titans is in development.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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In New Zealand, no one can hear you bleat.

ImageA movie review: Black Sheep, 2006. 70% positive on Rotten Tomatoes.

 

Watching this film, I can’t help but be reminded of such classics such as ‘Dead Alive’ (a fun zombie story by a little known Kiwi director, Peter Jackson) or ‘The Re-animator’ (a great mid-eighties mad scientist film starring Jeffrey Combs). The story is: Genetically altered zombie sheep are released by animal rights activists. This is terribly unlucky for Henry, the younger of two brothers inheriting a massive New Zealand farm, who suffers from acute ovinaphobia (an irrational fear of sheep – but can there really be a rational fear of sheep?) from a traumatic childhood encounter. Black sheep has it all – familial struggles, money and greed, a love story, the claustrophobic terror of spelunking in an offal pit, oh, yeah, and Zombie Sheep.

I’ve heard of this movie, but it took me quite a long time to actually see it. Luckily I caught it on IFC a couple weeks ago and taped it, so now I can strike it from my Netflix list.

Like so many other films of this kind, there is a great deal of tongue-in-cheek demonizing science and specifically genetics, because everyone knows that biotechnology inevitably leads to a zombie apocalypse.

If you don’t like gratuitous blood and guts with gobs and gobs of gore, this might not be the movie for you. And if you still can’t watch the scenes with the abominable snowman from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,  you might want to cover your eyes from time to time because this is about that scary.Image

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Semester’s End

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Our Jeopardy-themed final exam review

It’s the last week of the Fall 2012 Semester and I’ve been spending a lot of time working on getting the final exam written and edited, making sure all my students’ papers are graded and accounted for and putting together a good review session complete with a double batch of chocolate chip cookies and a pot of coffee.

Attendance was really down today because a lot of my students are sick (actually I am pretty ill as well) and our review day is actually not an official school day anyway, so I couldn’t even guilt students into attending. Nevertheless, I thought the cookies were good, the coffee was hot and our review session Jeopardy went very well.

There were only a few times today that I felt driven to drink as we went through a semester’s worth of material and tried to untangle any remaining confused lines of reasoning and replace them with what I hope are clear principles. This is the time of year that I think, “All I want is for them to understand a few key ideas,” but the reality is that key ideas are hard to examine – tests have to cover the details of some specific condition, and I just hope they exemplify the important points.

Mostly, what I want to say to any of my students who might read this, is ‘Thanks for taking my class. I hope you learned something this semester that makes you look at the world a little differently. I look forward to seeing some familiar faces in Microbiology next semester, but if I don’t have you in class again, I wish you all the best.’

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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